Hubris fells Celts in Milwaukee / Green Trends

It looked like the Celtics finally succumbed to their press clippings. Oh look, they've won 9 of their last 10 games! Isaiah's an All-Star!! They're 6th best in the league!!! Yada. Yada. Yada.

Playing their penultimate pre-break game in Milwaukee, the Cs only pretended to play defense through most of the first 3 quarters of Tuesday's contest, finally waking up in the 4th quarter to compete the way they're supposed to — the way that got them those clippings in the first place.

But it was too little too late, and the game ended the way it was supposed to end — with the Celts losing because they played badly most of the way. Lesson learned.

Why they needed that lesson is a mystery.

The contrast in efficiency ratings between the first 3 quarters and the 4th is starkly dramatic. You can see the breakdown of the team's M.O. in the numbers. (Details below.)

One telling stat: Cs committed 18 turnovers through the first 3 quarters, most of them unforced. Many times they just threw the ball away trying for hero plays and passes. As if playground ball had just carried over from the Kings game.
  • This team needs to recognize who they came to the dance with and not switch horses in midstream. (That's right, I'm mixing my metaphors. Who the hell cares.)
The good news: In the 4th quarter, Boston came back from 19 down to tie the game with 1 second left in regulation. (They lost when AB fouled a guy at 0:00.6.) Can this team score? Is the Green offense elite? Can they stop an opponent when they put their minds to it? Yes, on all counts.

But you gotta play 48 minutes in this league. Not 12.

Here are details on the game, and where the club stands now...


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Milwaukee – Feb 9 2016:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this complete game = 113.8 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #2 offense in the NBA this season. But it was all in the 4th quarter. The difference between the first 36 minutes and the last 12 is stunning.
  • The Cs' Off.Rtg. through the first 3 quarters = 97.0 — equivalent to #29 in the NBA. 
  • The Cs' Off.Rtg. in the 4th quarter = 175.2 !! — a completely unheard-of number the likes of which is rarely seen in the NBA, ever.
  • Prior to this game, MIL's defense was rated #29 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 109.2) — bad.
  • Overall in this game, MIL's defense performed like the #30 D in the league (Def.Rtg. = 113.8).
    • But through the first 3 quarters, MIL's Def.Rtg. was 97.0, equivalent to #1 in the NBA. Imagine how potent the Cs' offense must have been in that last quarter for the Bucks' defense to go from league-best-level to league-worst in 12 minutes.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this complete game = 114.8 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #30 defense this season. Again — everything bad happened in the first 3 quarters. In the last quarter, the Cs' D was mostly awesome.
  • The Cs' Def.Rtg. through the first 3 quarters = 121.9 ! — much worse than the league's worst defense this season. But then....
  • The Cs' Def.Rtg. in the 4th quarter = 90.0 — equivalent to #1 in the NBA.
  • Coming into this game, the Bucks' offense was rated #24 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 103.8) — weak.
  • Overall in this game, the Cs' D allowed MIL's O to score at a level equivalent to the #2 offense in the NBA (Off.Rtg. = 114.8).
    • But in that 4th quarter, the Bucks were held to an Off.Rtg. of 90.0, equivalent to the worst in the league.
Pace: Each team had 98 possessions – ~equal to the Cs' season average (98.5 – #3 in NBA). League average = 95.5/game.

Referees: Grade: A-. Observations: The crew of Dan Crawford (#43), Brent Barnaky (#70) and Curtis Blair (#74) did a very good job overall. Their only noted errors were in the 4th quarter, and minor. (Note: When Tommy's not there, there are fewer slo-mo closeup replays, making it harder to nail down wrong calls.) What a relief it is to watch a game where the referees are effectively invisible. Way it should be.
  • At ~11:19 of 4th quarter — the refs called this play a "continuation" to an attempted shot, and awarded Carter-Williams 2 free throws. Bad call. This was not a continuation in any universe where humans play basketball.
  • At ~4:22 of 4th quarter — the refs missed this tripping foul committed on Evan Turner.
Greg Monroe was unstoppable in the paint


Where do the Celtics stand now?


After the Bucks game...
  • Offensive Rating = 106.2 — ~#9 in NBA. Range: #9–#12 in a very tight group.
  • Defensive Rating = 102.0 — #3 in NBA. Range: #2–#4 in a very tight group.
  • Net Rating = +4.2 — #7 in NBA.
With the screwup of the MIL game, the Cs' Defensive Rating worsens again. (Back in early January it was ~100.3.) Their offense remains at #9, and their Net Rating drops to #7.

The rankings are extremely fluid right now, with many teams vying for the top spots. The important thing is: The Cs are in the top-10 on both O and D, and also in Net Rating. The rest — the details — will shake out after the break in ways we can't know now.

Note: These are all full season-to-date numbers. What about the Cs' recent performance?

In their last 10 games:
  • Cs' Offensive Ratings have averaged 110.1, equivalent to #4 in the NBA.
  • Cs' Defensive Ratings have averaged 101.1, equivalent to #2 in the NBA.
In their last 15 games:
  • Cs' Offensive Ratings have averaged 111.4, equivalent to #3 in the NBA.
  • Cs' Defensive Ratings have averaged 104.3, equivalent to #11 in the NBA.
Bottom lines:
  • The offense is now easily in the league's top-10 for the season, and has looked elite in recent games (ever since the offensive takeoff on January 10 in Memphis).
  • The defense, however, has definitely slipped in that time. It sits at #3 in the NBA for the season now (just barely) but has significantly worsened over the last 15 games.
  • The Cs need to renew their focus on that which got them to where they are.

Notes & Ruminations:

  • Maybe the AS break will do this team good. They need to recommit — to defense, and to taking care of the ball. You can't let Greg Monroe do whatever he wants in the paint, and you gotta stop the nutty hero plays.
  • A couple of guys stood out (negatively) in the MIL tilt: Amir was off his game (but improved late), and Evan Turner was downright AWFUL all game long.
    • One particularly horrible play by Turner came with ~2:15 left in the game. Evan got an offensive rebound under the rim, and instead of immediately passing out to a shooter, he decided to be the hero and score on his own — even though he was SURROUNDED BY ALL FIVE BUCKS DEFENDERS! Of course, he turned the ball over. Awful, awful decision/play. Here's the awful video.
  • Cs gotta realize that the Kings game was an aberration. A no-defense free-for-all; a chance to get back to the playground for a night. Key words: FOR A NIGHT. ABERRATION.
  • One more game on Wednesday before the long break, vs. the surging sans-Griffin Clippers. --Cya.

Green Trends is where we analyze the Celtics & identify emerging new trends — before they become obvious. Posts generally run within ~1-20 hours after Cs games.
Efficiency ratings source for comps: Misc: (Note: Our formulas for pace and efficiency ratings are similar to those used by these sites, and most others — just a tad more accurate because we don't ignore team turnovers.'s numbers will differ, as they use different formulas.)

For an intro to the advanced stats used in Green Trends (née Green Stats), see: Green Stats: Intro to advanced stats +...

Photo: Frank Ewere

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